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Highland Park’s main drag, York Avenue, is filled with shops, mostly of the eclectic variety, combining new, hip establishments with time-tested standards of the Los Angeles neighborhood. It’s here that Mark Trombino, a music producer best known for working with artists like Jimmy Eat World, Rilo Kiley and Blink-182, has opened a doughnut shop, the first incarnation in what he hopes will be many. The store, Donut Friend, is bright and airy, boasting a massive mural by artist Saelee Oh on one wall. Patrons can select a premade doughnut or elect to create their own from a wide variety of gourmet fillings and toppings. As Trombino puts it, it’s like Pinkberry but with doughnuts.
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“I went to a show in Orange County, and on the way back a friend of mine said, ‘Hey I heard about this doughnut shop in Glendora where they put fresh fruit in the doughnuts,’” Trombino tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was so good and I was like, ‘Why doesn’t everybody do this? It’s so easy.’ I started thinking about it. I stewed on that for years — this was like five years ago. The music business is not doing so great and budgets are small, so two years ago it was like I had to either double down and build myself a recording studio or do something completely new. I opted for something completely new.”
Trombino has been working on the shop since 2011, focusing on creating a place that would be inviting and open to any sort of customer — not just the hipsters who have recently begun to infiltrate Highland Park. The shop will serve regular doughnuts as well as baked, gluten-free and vegan options. They are currently testing recipes for the coveted cronut, a combination doughnut and croissant that has recently been a sensation in New York City. Donut Friend will also serve Klatch coffee, a company local to Southern California.
The preset doughnut menu items trace back to Trombino’s music career and are all puns on various punk and emo band names, many of which he’s worked with. Some highlights include The Starting Lime, Jimmy Eat Swirl and Rites of Sprinkles, which is Trombino’s personal favorite.
“It was this silly concept,” Trombino says. “A friend and I were talking about it, and he came up with Jimmy Eat Swirl as a name for one of the doughnuts and it was just so funny. We started riffing and coming up with all these stupid names, and it stuck. I was nervous about it at first but I think it actually turned out to be a really cool thing.”
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“[Jimmy Eat World] knows about it and they’ve actually submitted an idea for their doughnut because I don’t actually have it on the menu yet,” he adds. “I’m implementing it now. Rocket From the Crypt knows I have a doughnut named after them [called Chocolate From the Crypt], and I think even someone told Ian MacKaye about the Fudgegazi doughnut. I don’t know what his reaction was. He was probably not stoked. But I’ll give Ian MacKaye a free doughnut if he comes in here.”
Donut Friend isn’t just a side project to Trombino’s musical career, however. The shop actually marks a complete career reversal. “I don’t want to admit it yet,” Trombino says when asked whether he’s completely done with music. “But probably. I can still work at home. I have a little setup at home where I can mix or whatever. I knew this would be different than working in music, and that’s why I did it. I know nothing about this business. Every minute I’m learning something new, which is exciting.”
Donut Friend is located at 5107 York Ave. in Highland Park. The shop officially opens Tuesday, Sept. 24. It will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except Monday.
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